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NASA picks SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to launch two key pieces of the Lunar Gateway – The Verge



NASA chose SpaceX’s heavy-lift Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the first two elements of the agency’s Lunar Gateway, a planned outpost orbiting the moon. The two Gateway pieces, a propulsion module and astronaut living quarters, were originally designed to launch separately, but NASA picked SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy as a one-trip solution for $332 million.

Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s strongest operational rocket, will send both Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and its Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) to space as one integrated payload “no earlier than May 2024,” NASA said in a statement Tuesday night. NASA originally planned to have the PPE, built by Maxar, and HALO, built by Northrop Grumman, mate in space after launching atop two separate rockets, but the agency decided last year to launch them together in a single mission to cut costs.

Instead, it “contributed to cost increases due to the redesign of several components” for both Maxar’s PPE and Northrop’s HALO, NASA’s inspector general wrote in a report released last year. It added that launching the two elements together could be risky, because the payload “may be too heavy for commercially available rockets or too long for the rocket’s fairing.” The rocket ultimately met NASA’s performance requirements, NASA spokeswoman Monica Witt told The Verge.

That report also found that combining the Gateway elements would result in “a longer duration flight to lunar orbit,” which could add extra costs to the mission. Among the costs included in the recently-announced $332 million price tag are “payload processing facilities, support contractors, range support, spacecraft propellants, communications, and telemetry,” Witt said. She declined to say whether the cost will support any changes to Falcon Heavy’s payload shell to accommodate the hefty size and weight of launching two Gateway elements that were originally designed for separate rockets. SpaceX didn’t return a request for comment.

$332 million was three times more than what the agency has previously awarded for another upcoming Falcon Heavy launch — NASA will pay SpaceX $117 million to launch its Psyche asteroid mission on the rocket in 2022. But SpaceX has commanded steep prices for Falcon Heavy launches before. In late 2020 SpaceX got $316 million from the Air Force for a single Falcon Heavy launch, but that hefty price tag “reflects mostly the infrastructure,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell clarified. That infrastructure includes a new mobile service tower meant to satisfy requirements for processing national security-related payloads, according to an FAA filing.

Beyond price, NASA’s decision to combine the two elements meant some complicated juggling from each of the companies involved. It forced Maxar to cancel a contract it had already signed with SpaceX to launch the PPE and other satellites. The company paid SpaceX $27.5 million, including $6 million that came from NASA. To resolve this predicament, Witt said the agency “negotiated contractual modifications with Maxar to remove the previous launch service.”

And for Northrop, launching the HALO habitat together with the PPE forced the company to shave off cargo it originally planned to send packaged inside, according to the inspector general report. Now, “HALO will not be able to deliver additional cargo as originally envisioned which will result in an earlier than planned resupply in orbit,” which means an additional rocket launch might be necessary.

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Take a look around Mars with Perseverance rover's HD photo panorama – Global News



NASA‘s Perseverance rover is offering Earthlings the next-best thing to standing on Mars with a series of high-definition panorama photos that allow you to look around the Red Planet at your leisure.

The space agency released the panorama footage on Wednesday, a few days after it successfully landed its Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars.

“The newly released panorama reveals the crater rim and cliff face of an ancient river delta in the distance,” NASA said in a news release.

Read more:
NASA’s Perseverance rover sends back ‘stunning’ images after landing on Mars

It also reveals the scene around the rover in extremely high detail, so that you can actually see the rivets on the vehicle and the pores in individual Martian rocks.

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The interactive footage is a bit like Google Maps on Mars. You can swipe, drag or zoom the camera to take a look at the full 360-degree field of view around Perseverance, thanks to 142 high-definition photos that have been stitched together.

Click on the image below to explore the panorama footage from Mars.

Perseverance captured the photos with its Mastcam-Z camera over the weekend. The high-definition camera can pick out details as small as 3 to 5 millimetres at close range, and between 2 to 3 metres across on the mountainous horizon, according to NASA.

Richmond company goes to Mars

Richmond company goes to Mars

NASA says the view from Perseverance is similar to what it has seen at past landing sites.

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“We’re nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity at their landing sites,” said Jim Bell, NASA’s principal investigator for the camera, in the news release.

NASA researchers have already started picking out interesting sights from the Martian surface, including a rock formation that appears to have been carved by the merciless Martian wind.

This wind-carved rock seen in first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument shows just how much detail is captured by the camera systems.


The rover’s primary mission is to search for signs of ancient life on Mars, and to eventually send samples of the Martian surface back to Earth for analysis.

One of the first steps in that mission is to scan the crater’s surface for rocks that are worthy of closer inspection.

The crater was once a lake filled with liquid water, but that water disappeared about three billion years ago.

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Click to play video 'Significance of NASA’s historic landing on Mars'

Significance of NASA’s historic landing on Mars

Significance of NASA’s historic landing on Mars

Scientists hope that some forms of microbial life might have lived in that ancient sea, and that their microscopic remains can be found in the rock and soil on the surface today.

The rover will eventually collect several samples, package them up and leave them at designated retrieval points, where a future mission will one day retrieve them and fly them back to Earth.

Read more:
Scientists ‘shocked’ to find life in extreme depths under Antarctic ice

NASA will also scan the photos for a flat spot where it can launch the rover’s miniature helicopter.

All those efforts start with reviewing the same panorama photos that NASA has now released to the public.

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That means you can join scientists in scanning the photos for interesting details on the distant Martian surface.

You probably won’t spot any fossilized aliens laying around — but who says you can’t at least try?

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Mats Zuccarello with a Goal vs. Colorado Avalanche – Yahoo Canada Sports




Canada’s Brie King excited for ‘once in a lifetime’ chance with Athletes Unlimited

(Athletes Unlimited – image credit) Brie King enjoys three main passions: volleyball, church and music. “Everything I do for the church is because I want to. It’s giving back for me. Volleyball is my total passion. I love volleyball so much. And music has just been this incredible gift that has really just naturally come easy,” King said. King, 23, of Langley, B.C., is the lone Canadian set to compete in the Athletes Unlimited volleyball season that begins on Saturday. has live coverage of select games beginning Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A member of the senior national indoor volleyball team, King played collegiately at Trinity Western in her hometown before skipping her senior season to turn pro in Germany. Now, she’ll compete in the inaugural AU volleyball campaign. The pro women’s sports league launched last summer with softball and will introduce a lacrosse league in July. At the same time, King is continuing to lead Zoom services for the church she and husband Jeremy began during the pandemic. If that wasn’t enough, as a musician and singer she has an album set to be released early in the summer. “I feel like I have to be so wild into volleyball, especially with the format. It’s like a really heavy game and not a lot of off-time. … I thought about buying a guitar or a small little keyboard while I’m here just to have some fun, but who knows?,” King said. Athletes Unlimited employs a different format than the typical North American pro league: players switch teams every week for the six-week duration, with individual points earned and subtracted for things like aces and errors. Points are also earned for winning individual sets and overall matches. Those matches are played in three sets up to 25 points, with the winner of the match the team who scored the most. “They’ve really made it clear [that] a team wins and the games, matches, those all account for a lot more than the individual points. And I think it’s a really accurate reflection, honestly, of what the sport is,” King said. King, No. 26, goes up for a block during a practice. King arrived in Dallas, where the entire season will be played, in early February. After a three-day hotel-room quarantine, she began practice along the 43 other athletes in attendance, including six Olympians. Canada’s women’s indoor volleyball team failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but King says all eyes are on Paris 2024. She’ll begin her season on a team with Brazilian Olympian Sheilla Castro and Dominican counterpart Bethania De La Cruz. “The experience to play with these players that I’ve grown up watching and learning from, it feels like once in a lifetime. I really can’t believe it. And in a lot of ways, we’re peers in the sense that we’re teammates and we’re working together to achieve the same goal. But I feel like I’m getting so much better as a player and a human by being around such high-level experience,” she said. Proximity to home is key King, a second-round pick in the AU draft, said there’s already been interest from teammates and competitors in joining her Sunday services. She’s already seen the difference even an online congregation can make in our socially distanced lives. “I think that’s been the most beautiful part is just seeing people not have their circumstances change, but be able to change where their heart and mind is at,” she said. Proximity to family became increasingly important to King during the pandemic. She had an offer to play professionally in Turkey, but when a Canadian coach called her with the Athletes Unlimited opportunity, its location was the biggest draw. “It kind of feels like the U.S. and Canada together on the same team in terms of international volleyball. And it’s kind of a dream of every young girl in the U.S. and Canada to get to play closer to home,” King said. Players are paid relative to their final place in the standings. AU matches 50 per cent of that salary to be donated to charities of that individual’s choice. They also receive behind-the-scenes training from a league advisory board that includes NBA MVP Kevin Durant, softball great Jessica Mendoza, Hockey Hall of Famer Angela Ruggiero, World Cup champion Abby Wambach and tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Those workshops include brand development, financial management and more, all in an effort to make the athletes the focus of the fledgling league. Despite an active church and a budding music career, for the next six weeks King’s main focus will return to her profession. “When I think about when this is done, I’m so excited to feel like I just gained a ton of knowledge and got a lot better at volleyball.”

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Explained: Why is Mars so interesting to scientists, and the adventurer that lives in us all? – The Indian Express



Perseverance is not just another Rover Mission. Perseverance is the most advanced, most expensive and most sophisticated mobile laboratory sent to Mars. The results of the experiments on Perseverance will likely define the next couple of decades of Mars exploration – it will determine the course of search for life and a future manned mission to Mars.

Mars Science in the past 30 years

We have come a very long way in understanding Mars from the time of the first generation missions in the 1960s. The Viking missions in the mid-seventies carried out the first chemical analysis of Martian soil, as well as four biology experiments to detect biological activity. The experiments did not yield any conclusive evidence of life.

In the early 1980s, scientists hypothesised, based on mineralogic composition and rock texture, that certain meteorites might have a source region in Mars, in contrast to the asteroid belt. In 1984, a study showed that the isotopic composition of rare gases (Xenon, Krypton, Neon and Argon) matched the isotopic ratios of the Martian atmosphere measured by the Viking spacecraft. This discovery provided a way for geochemists to study Martian samples – and provided a huge boost to our understanding of the geochemical evolution of Mars.

Mars was considered to be a dry planet in the 20th century. This changed in 2001, when the Gamma Ray Spectrometer on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft detected a fascinating hydrogen signature that seemed to indicate the presence of water ice. But there was ambiguity – this was because hydrogen can be part of many other compounds as well, including organic compounds.

To test for the presence of water, NASA sent a spacecraft to land near the Martian South Pole in 2007. The spacecraft studied the soil around the lander with its robotic arm and was able to establish, without any ambiguity, the presence of water on Mars for the first time.

The first image sent by the Perseverance rover showing the surface of Mars, just after landing in the Jezero crater, on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (NASA via AP)

The Curiosity rover carries an instrument called SAM (or Sample Analysis at Mars), which contains a suite of spectrometers with the goal of detecting organic compounds on Mars. SAM has a mass spectrometer that can measure not just the elements, but the isotopes as well. This instrument has made the fascinating discovery of large chain organic compounds on Mars. It is not known how these organics form on Mars: the process would likely be inanimate, but there is a fascinating possibility that such complex molecules were formed by processes associated with life.

Mars Insight is creating history right now, by monitoring seismic activity and heat flow on Mars – this will help understand the composition of the Martian interior.

The Expert

Dr Amitabha Ghosh is a NASA Planetary Scientist based in Washington DC. He has worked for multiple NASA Mars Missions starting with the Mars Pathfinder Mission in 1997. He served as Chair of the Science Operations Working Group for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission, and was tasked with leading tactical Rover Operations on Mars for more than 10 years. He helped analyse the first rock on Mars, which incidentally happened to be the first rock analysed from another planet.

The enduring fascination with Mars

Why is Mars so interesting to scientists? And to the explorer-adventurer in all of us? There are two primary reasons.

First, Mars is a planet where life may have evolved in the past. Life evolved on Earth 3.8 billion years ago. Conditions on early Mars roughly around 4 billion years ago were very similar to that of Earth. It had a thick atmosphere, which enabled the stability of water on the surface of Mars. If indeed conditions on Mars were similar to those on Earth, there is a real possibility that microscopic life evolved on Mars.

Second, Mars is the only planet that humans can visit or inhabit in the long term. Venus and Mercury have extreme temperatures – the average temperature is greater than 400 degree C, or hotter than a cooking oven. All planets in the outer solar system starting with Jupiter are made of gas – not silicates or rocks – and are very cold. Mars is comparatively hospitable in terms of temperature, with an approximate range between 20 degrees C at the Equator to minus 125 degrees C at the poles.

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The mission of Perseverance on Mars

Perseverance addresses both the critical themes around Mars – the search for life, and a human mission to that planet.

Sample Return Mission: Is there life on Mars?

Perseverance is the first step in a multi-step project to bring samples back from Mars. The study of the returned rock samples in sophisticated laboratories all over the world will hopefully provide a decisive answer on whether life existed on Mars in the past.

Here are the steps in the Sample Return:

As the first step, Perseverance will collect rock and soil samples in 43 cigar-sized tubes. The samples will be collected, the canisters will be sealed, and left on the ground.

The second step is for a Mars Fetch Rover (provided by the European Space Agency) to land, drive, and collect all samples from the different locations, and return to the lander.

The Fetch Rover will then transfer the canisters to the Ascent Vehicle. The Mars Ascent Vehicle will meet with an Orbiter after which the Orbiter will carry the samples back to Earth.

This long-term project is called MSR or Mars Sample Return. MSR will revolutionise our understanding of the evolutionary history of Mars. If MSR is successfully executed, we will have a reasonable answer of whether there was microscopic life on Mars.

But MSR does have its risks. If one of the components fails, like the Fetch Rover or the Mars Ascent Vehicle, MSR is doomed. A hidden risk is strategic. At the cost of MSR, there could be 5-10 spacecraft missions to different parts of the solar system: so hence, by choosing MSR, NASA forecloses the option to undertake those other missions.

Producing oxygen on Mars: A critical requirement

For a human mission to Mars to materialise, the cost needs to be reasonable. For costs to be reasonable, there needs to be a technology and infrastructure in place to manufacture oxygen on Mars using raw materials available on Mars.

Without a robust way to manufacture oxygen on Mars, human missions to Mars will be very expensive, and unrealistic. Without a reliable oxygen production plan on Mars, Elon Musk’s plan to provide commercial transportation to Mars will be at risk of failure.

Perseverance will have an instrument – MOXIE, or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment – that will use 300 watts of power to produce about 10 grams of oxygen using atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Should this experiment be successful, MOXIE can be scaled up by a factor of 100 to provide the two very critical needs of humans: oxygen for breathing, and rocket fuel for the trip back to Earth.

Looking for underground water on Mars

Perseverance will carry the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX). RIMFAX will provide high resolution mapping of the subsurface structure at the landing site. The instrument will also look for subsurface water on Mars – which, if found, will greatly help the case for a human mission or the cause of a human settlement on Mars.

Testing a helicopter to fly on Mars

The Mars Helicopter is really a small drone. It is a technology demonstration experiment: to test whether the helicopter can fly in the sparse atmosphere on Mars.

The low density of the Martian atmosphere makes the odds of actually flying a helicopter or an aircraft on Mars very low. Long-distance transportation on Mars has to rely on vehicles that rely on rocket engines for powered ascent and powered descent.

We are perhaps a decade from two milestones in the exploration of Mars: a human mission to Mars, and a decisive answer to the question of whether Mars harboured – or still harbours – microscopic life. Perseverance is expected to provide significant insight on both questions.

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